Who the hell is going to vote for the far-right organization in the upcoming Greek elections now? I contacted some political analysts to find out.
This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.
Today marks the second anniversary of the murder of antifascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn member George Roupakias. The killing was the catalyst that led to the arrest of many of the extreme right organization's members. Along with Fyssas's murder case, several other charges were also mounted against the organization.
Subsequently various members of the parliamentary group were jailed and set to face trial in a process that should have begun in April. However, thanks to endless bureaucratic delays a witness has yet to be called.
Until recently, the official line of GD leader Nikos Michaloliakos—who stands accused of directing a criminal organization—was that his party had nothing to do with the murder of Pavlos Fyssas. In 2013, Michaloliakos claimed that George Roupakias wasn't even a member of Golden Dawn and that he had no involvement in the murder.
On Thursday, September 17, just a few days before Greeks are called to the polls for a third time in one year and with Golden Dawn polling as the third most popular party, Nikos Michaloliakos accepted political responsibility for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas on live radio.
"With regards to political responsibility for the murder of Fyssas in Keratsini, we accept it," he said during the interview. "As for criminal liability, there isn't any. Is it right to condemn a whole party because one of its followers carried out a condemnable act?"
Why did Michaliolakis "confess"? What does Golden Dawn's acceptance of political responsibility mean? Why do this a few days before the election? And, most importantly, will the Greek people continue to vote for a party that has claimed political responsibility for a murder just because it sells itself as anti-austerity and antisystemic? According to analysts, they will.
I got in touch Dimitris Psaras, journalist and author of the book The Black Book of Golden Dawn: Documents on the History and Activity of a Nazi Group to ask what conclusions he drew from Nikos Michaloliakos's confessions.
"With the admittance of 'political responsibility,' Michaloliakos is reassuring his hardcore followers that he hasn't abandoned them and isn't going to throw them under the bus just to save himself. He wants to dispel this image of a captain leaving the ship, an image that he's been tarred with in recent months. With this particular statement he has acknowledged what he has so stubbornly denied for two years. He now fully vindicates the united leadership of the organization," said Psaras.
I asked if he thinks there are still voters who were unaware of the real face of GD: "There haven't been any unsuspecting Golden Dawn votes since the autumn of 2013, when the press dealt extensively with the criminal activity of the organization," he responded. "I don't expect an immediate shift in voters. But this declaration of 'political responsibility' will have long-term consequences, both in terms of the judicial investigation of Golden Dawn and the political support behind their Nazi project," Psaras concluded.
I then contacted Aristides Hatzis, deputy professor of philosophy of law and theory of institutions at the University of Athens, to ask if he expects Golden Dawn to lose votes because of Michaloliakos's recent comments.
"I don't see how it will affect Golden Dawn's voters, because I don't think they have any doubt about what the party is. This isn't 2012, when they first entered the Greek parliament. Everyone knows that they are a neo-Nazi party, we all very aware of their views and what they have done," he replied. "I don't think it will cost them much in political capital—it looks like they will be emerging even stronger in the upcoming elections. They're playing the card of being the only genuine anti-memorandum and antisystemic party, as well as taking advantage of the situation with refugees and immigrants. There are no unsuspecting Golden Dawn supporters now. Nobody has an excuse."
The question that remains, however, is how the "confession" will affect future court proceedings for the political party. Takis Zotos, Thanassis Kampagiannis, and Kostas Papadakis Kostas are lawyers who work with the "Jail Golden Dawn" movement. They maintain that "the neo-Nazis might be making a desperate attempt to convince the public they've changed, but their Führer, Nikos Michaloliakos, just openly accepted political responsibility for organizing Pavlos Fyssas's murder. With this, Michaloliakos has accepted the charge of leading a criminal organization."
When asked whether there should be any new charges brought about after Michaloliakos's statement, Takis Zotos explained: "They are already charged with being a criminal organization. The difference is that, now, Michaloliakos accepts the charge. This will not benefit them at the polling booths. Ordinary people should be able to see them for what they are."